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My name is Jessie and I’m a junior majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology. I grew up in Bangkok, Thailand, where I completed my IGCSEs at St. Andrews International School and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at NIST International School.

When I was 14, I found out about Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Summer Programs. I took the SAT and qualified for the Intensive Studies program. Thus, at age 15, I set foot on the Homewood campus for the first time. Completing the month-long Fast-Paced High School Biology (2014) and Genetics (2015) summer programs, I fell in love how robust the STEM programs were. For instance, each floor of the Undergraduate Teaching Labs was dedicated to a different research discipline: Protein Engineering, Introductory Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Developmental Biology, and so forth. Furthermore, as part of the CTY Genetics class, we got to tour some labs at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center (JHMI). I remember telling a friend that I wanted to work in an advanced laboratory like the one we visited. I never would have thought that four years in the future, I’d be working as a research assistant in that exact lab.

I did experience a bit of culture shock in freshman year. I used to freeze up when asked “how are you doing?” before I realized that it was a greeting. Nowadays, “I’m good, how are you?” falls naturally from my lips. Moreover, I also experienced a lot of “firsts.” Often, it was with the most mundane of things. My first snow. My first Philly cheesesteak. And most recently, my first Costco trip. Likewise, people here are intrigued by things that are common back home: coconut, papaya, and mango trees in the backyard. Meals that cost less than 80 cents. Motorbike taxis. I love sharing tidbits of my Thai heritage to my friends here; showing up at social events with a pot of home-brewed Thai iced tea is a classic crowd-pleaser.

I’ve noticed that Johns Hopkins has been accepting more international students in recent years. In my Class of 2021, 7.3% of students were international. That number has since doubled to 14% in the Class of 2023. That’s great news for us! I hope future international students also find a home at Hopkins.